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Before leak, NSA mulled ending phone program

Fox News (Politics) - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 08:19
The National Security Agency considered abandoning its secret program to collect and store American calling records in the months before leaker Edward Snowden revealed the practice, current and former intelligence officials say, because some officials believed the costs outweighed the meager counter-terrorism benefits.

Why the Supreme Court Will Overrule the IRS

Cato Recent Op Eds - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 08:19

Michael F. Cannon and Jonathan H. Adler

Kevin Pace is a jazz musician who teaches music appreciation in Northern Virginia. When the IRS announced it would impose the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate here in the Old Dominion, Pace’s employer cut hours for part-time professors in order to avoid steep penalties. Pace lost $8,000 in income. That would be bad enough if the penalties the IRS is now imposing on Virginia employers were legal. Yet two federal courts have held they are not.

In King v. Burwell, four Virginia taxpayers are challenging the IRS’s decision to impose Obamacare’s major taxing and spending provisions in states that refused to establish a health-insurance “exchange.” As provided in the Affordable Care Act, the federal government established fallback exchanges (HealthCare.gov) in those states.

“Not a single member of Congress ever claimed the ACA authorized subsidies in federal exchanges. Not. Even. Once.”

But the act authorizes premium subsidies — and certain taxes that those subsidies trigger — only “through an Exchange established by the State.” In spite of that clear statutory requirement, the IRS is issuing premium subsidies and imposing those taxes in 34 states, including Virginia, that did not establish exchanges. The King challengers allege the IRS is subjecting them, Kevin Pace and 57 million other Americans to illegal taxes in the form of Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month, and will likely rule by June.

Times-Dispatch columnist A. Barton Hinkle’s “The case against Obamacare is looking weaker,” March 23 — is skeptical of the challengers’ claim that Congress intended to authorize the disputed taxes and spending only in states that established exchanges. I used to share his skepticism. I no longer do.

***

In 2011 and 2012, I researched and wrote — along with Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan H. Adler — a law-journal article that explains why the IRS’s actions are illegal. Our work laid the foundation for King and three similar cases. To our knowledge, we have done more research on the question of what Congress really meant than anyone.

When we began, we knew Congress routinely conditions benefits to individuals on states implementing federal programs. The Supreme Court has held that Congress cannot compel states to implement such programs, but it can create incentives for states to do so. Medicaid is an example. Congress offers states billions of dollars — but only if the states run health-care programs for the poor that meet federal standards.

Still, we assumed Congress must have made a drafting error when it authorized premium subsidies only in states that establish an exchange. Personally, I thought the ACA’s authors would never intentionally condition this essential piece of the law’s regulatory scheme on state cooperation. Our research forced me to re-evaluate that assumption.

First and most important, we examined the ACA itself, which is clear and consistent. It authorizes exchange subsidies only “through an Exchange established by the State.” It neither defines the federal government as a “State,” nor defines federal fallback exchanges or exchanges generally as having been “established by the State.” Every jot and tittle of the statute is completely consistent with the plain meaning of this limitation, which was added to the bill in multiple places and at multiple stages of the drafting process.

Second, we researched the legislative history. We researched the Congressional Record and examined every single mention of “exchanges” during the debate over the ACA. We pored over hundreds of media accounts. We spoke to dozens of reporters who covered the debate. We found that not a single member of Congress ever claimed the ACA authorized subsidies in federal exchanges. Not. Even. Once.

Our prior assumption about what Congress intended was uninformed. It literally had no support in either the statute or the legislative history. To this day, I am surprised, and a little embarrassed, that I could have been so wrong.

***

What we did find surprised us even more. Everything in the legislative history that sheds light on what Congress intended supports the plain meaning of the language limiting premium subsidies to those who obtain coverage “through an Exchange established by the State.”

  • The lead author of the ACA, then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., had proposed — and even gotten Congress to enact — other health-insurance tax credits and subsidies that were conditioned on states taking certain actions.
  • Senate Democrats similarly considered letting individual states opt out of the Democrats’ cherished “public option.”
  • Congressional Democrats considered other bills in 2009 that explicitly did authorize subsidies in federal exchanges. But they discarded that language in favor of the ACA’s approach.
  • More than a dozen Senate Democrats championed a bill that explicitly conditioned exchange subsidies on states implementing that bill’s employer mandate. Those senators discarded that condition in favor of the ACA’s approach of explicitly conditioning premium subsidies on states implementing exchanges.
  • Eleven House Democrats from Texas recognized and even complained that states could prevent their residents from receiving “any benefit” under the ACA, including premium subsidies, simply by refusing to establish exchanges. In early January 2010, they pleaded for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama to support one of the bills that explicitly authorized subsidies in federal exchanges. Yet all 11 of them ended up voting for the ACA, despite their reservations.
  • One of the ACA’s architects and a paid consultant to the Obama administration, Massachusetts Institute of Technology health economist Jonathan Gruber, repeatedly described the ACA by saying: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”

***

The sole source Hinkle cites to support his continued skepticism is Washington & Lee University law professor Timothy Jost. Ever since Adler and I first blew the whistle on the IRS in 2011, Jost has been our most persistent critic.

Which is not to say Jost has been our most consistent critic. In 2011, he wrote the ACA “clearly says” what we claim. He now argues the ACA clearly says the opposite. Where he once described the relevant language as an “obvious” “drafting error,” a “scrivener’s error,” and a “mistake,” he now admits it was none of these things. He also claimed, variously and confidently, that “it is not possible to conceive of a person” who would have standing to challenge the IRS in court, then that only employers could, and finally that no one could until 2015. Each claim proved false.

Most interesting, Jost wrote in 2011 that there could be “no coherent policy reason” to offer subsidies only through state-established exchanges. We later discovered that in early 2009, Jost himself proposed “offering tax subsidies for insurance only in states that complied with federal requirements,” complete with his own coherent policy reason: to induce state cooperation. To my knowledge, Jost has never explained the contradiction.

For four years, Jost and other IRS defenders have gone on a fishing expedition in the ACA and its legislative history to find something, anything to support what they too assumed Congress intended. Every time they claim they have a nibble, however, we find a car tire or an old boot on the end of their line.

It’s fair to be skeptical of the King challengers. Skepticism should yield to evidence, however, and all the evidence is on the challengers’ side.

Moreover, we should be far more skeptical of those with power than those without it. King v. Burwell asks whether the IRS is reaching beyond its statutory powers and imposing taxes by fiat. This is no small matter. This nation fought a war — its first war — over taxation without representation.

The burden of proof should be on the IRS to show that the people’s elected representatives clearly authorized any tax the agency seeks to impose. Unfortunately for the King challengers, Kevin Pace and 57 million other Americans, that’s not where the burden lies, the American Revolution notwithstanding.

Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. He is co-author (with Jonathan H. Adler) of “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA,” Health Matrix, 2013.

Conflict in Yemen is not a proxy war: Saudi official

Fox News (Politics) - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 06:18
The fighting in Yemen is not a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S said Sunday.

Hackers bring down Indiana state website over religious freedom bill

Fox News (Politics) - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 05:07
Hackers blocked access to Indiana's state government website Friday afternoon in retaliation to the state's controversial "religious freedom" bill being signed into law this week.

Indiana gov supports effort to 'clarify' religious objections law

Fox News (Politics) - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 01:33
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said he would support legislation to “clarify the intent” of the new law that has drawn widespread scrutiny over concerns it could allow discrimination against gay people.

US raises pressure on Israel over Palestinian state

Fox News (Politics) - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 23:00
The U.S. exerted new pressure against Israel by leaving open the possibility of letting the United Nations set a deadline for a Palestinian state, in what would be a departure from using American veto power to protect its close Mideast ally.

As deadline looms, Iran nuke talks take on frantic tone

Fox News (Politics) - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 23:00
The international negotiations to strike a nuclear agreement with Iran intensified Saturday, as France and Germany joined in the talks that have recently been limited to the United States and Tehran.

Senate GOP asking new questions about emails for Clinton and Abedin, who had special employment status

Fox News (Politics) - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 23:00
Senate Republicans are renewing efforts to learn why Huma Abedin, a top assistant to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was allowed to keep working at the agency under a special, part-time status while also being employed at a politically-connected consulting firm.

Some People Just Want to Be Ruled, and Some Just Don’t

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
The truth is some (many) people just want someone to make decisions for them. I am unsure if it is a genetic disposition or whether it is socialization or whether it is both. All I know is some people do not want to control their own lives. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Nick Sorrentino

Obama’s Immigration “Legacy:” Lower Wages, Less Security for Americans

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
All we're saying is we're not going to deport you," was the big lie President Barack Obama used when he announced his executive action on immigration. Despite being repeated time and again by politicians and the media during the DHS funding debate to describe the presidents action, its still a lie. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Ken Blackwell

Nailed It! Forbes Leaves Fortune and Wall Street (Journal) Behind

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
What amazed me about the latest Billionaire issue of Forbes magazine was not the stories about the billionaires, but about Forbes itself. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Mark Skousen

Restoring the Old-Fashioned Budget Virtue of…FDR and Truman?!?

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
This is a column I never expected to write. Thats because Im going to applaud Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Daniel J. Mitchell

Los Angeles' City Council Cannot Understand Why Its Nanny State Zoning Change Miserably Failed

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
Celebrate with me the recent lesson learned by the city council of Los Angeles after a 7-years-long experiment in nanny statism that ended in utter failure. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Michael Hausam

The Data Proves Marriage Matters

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
A recent study confirms what we have long-suspectedthe poverty rate for our children is directly tied to the strength of the marriage institution. But will the adults throwing a tantrum even care? 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Steve Deace

America's Cartel Problem, Part I

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
I know many people do not understand the very real battle happening in the United States. More specifically, here in the Southwest U.S. we have been involved in an extended battle with a foreign criminal element. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Matthew Thomas

Curb Your Economic Pessimism

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
We can do a lot better, but America is still a very resilient place. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Larry Kudlow

The Tip of the Climate Spending Iceberg

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
How your tax and consumer dollars finance Climate Crisis, Inc. and hobble America. 2015-03-28T00:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Paul Driessen

Bears Koww

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
Even the biggest number-crunchers, the fundamental analysts on Wall Street, peek at the charts when the sledding gets tough, and its been very tough lately. 2015-03-27T19:53:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Charles Payne

The Next 'Greatest Generation': A Millennial's Perspective on Ted Cruz

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
Monday morning I sat among 10,000 of my peers as Sen. Ted Cruz announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president at my school, Liberty University. As senior in Libertys Helms School of Government I was thrilled to witness a presidential hopeful announce his candidacy. 2015-03-27T18:43:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Ashley Traficant

Are We Heading for Another 1937-Style Recession?

TownHall Latest columns - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:35
Some economists worry that if the Fed raises rates too soon or the Republican-run Congress cuts government spending too much, we will have a 1937-style recession. 2015-03-27T15:01:00-04:00 2015-03-29T03:35:04Z Mark Skousen

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